Medieval Virginities

Editor(s) Anke Bernau,Sarah Salih,Ruth Evans

Language: English

Genre(s): History

Series: Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages

  • July 2003 · 296 pages ·216x138mm

  • · Paperback - 9780708317624

About The Book

From Joan of Arc to Britney Spears, the figure of the virgin has been the subject of considerable scholarly and popular interest. Yet virginity itself is a paradoxical condition, both perfect and monstrous, present and absent, often visible only insofar as it is under threat. Medieval Virginities traces some of the specific manifestations of virginity in late medieval culture. It shows how virginity is represented in medical, legal, hagiographical and historical texts, as well as how the seductive but dangerous figure of the virgin affects the aims and objectives of these texts. Because virginity is so often thought of as self-identical and ahistorical, Medieval Virginities aims to theorize and historicize its various manifestations and to demonstrate how representations and discussions of virginity continuously shift and change. The variety of subjects and disciplines represented here testify both to the elusiveness of virginity and to its lasting appeal and importance. Medieval Virginities shows how virginity's inherent ambiguity highlights the problems, contradictions and discontinuities lurking within medieval ideologies. It will be essential reading for anyone interested in questions of gender identity, conceptions of the body, subjectivity, truth and representation in medieval culture.


'One notable characteristic of this volume is its consistent engagement with key methodological and interpretative concerns. All of the essays show clear signs of participation in a coherent critical conversation; it is refreshing, and a credit to the editors, to see this degree of conceptual as well as topical coherence in a collection of essays.' Modern Language Review '...fascinating and scholarly volume, well presented...a must for all libraries.' Analecta Cartusiana


Introduction - Anke Bernau, Sarah Salih and Ruth Evans; 1. When is a Bosom not a Bosom? Problems with Erotic Mysticism(Sarah Salih; 2. The Sheela-na-gig. An Incongruous Sign of Sexual Purity? - Juliette Dor; 3. Virginity and Chastity tests in Medieval Welsh Prose - Jane Cartwright; 4. Four Virgins' Tales - Sex and Power in Medieval Law - Kim M. Phillips; 5. The Labour of Continence - Masculine Clerical Virginity - John H. Arnold 6. Virginity in the Construction of Edward the Confessor as a Saint - Joanna Huntington; 7. Alchemy and the Exploration of Late Medieval Sexuality - Jonathan Hughes; 8. The Jew, the Host and the Virgin Martyr - Fantasies of the Sentient Body - Ruth Evans; 9. Can the Virgin Martyr Speak? - Robert Mills -10. Saint, Witch, Man, Maid or Whore? Joan of Arc and Writing History - Anke Bernau; 11. Afterword - Jocelyn Wogan-Browne.

About the Editor(s)

Author(s): Anke Bernau

Anke Bernau is Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University.

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Author(s): Sarah Salih

Sarah Salih is Lecturer in English Literature at the University of East Anglia.

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Author(s): Ruth Evans

Ruth Evans is Senior Lecturer in English Studies at the University of Stirling.

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